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MullenLowe Lintas Group's Ameer Ismail shares insights into innovative agencies of the future

How AI will be incorporated in the PR process:

AI has been one of the most hotly debated topics in recent times. Leaders of big technology firms, governments and regulatory agencies across the globe have been weighing into the conversation. On an individual level, chances are that you’re already using AI in your everyday life. 

When you ask Alexa a question, when you use Grammarly to proofread an email, or when you engage with a chatbot, you’re already leveraging the power of AI.

While the PR industry has evolved rapidly in recent years, we’ve only just begun to scratch the surface of what is possible with AI. The industry has been busy decoding AI and its impact on business, talent, and processes. Thankfully, the adoption and usage of AI in PR has led to some clarity on its impact. Take, for instance, how AI is used in content creation to generate presentations, press releases, pitch notes and communication briefs. 

All this bodes the question, will AI make jobs redundant? Quite the opposite, I believe it will create newer opportunities for PR practitioners. 

We will see agencies use data in decision making, many will leverage AI’s predictive capabilities by deep analysis of historical data, market trends and consumer behaviour to carve out insights that can be critical to campaign effectiveness.

It could also significantly enhance social listening and ORM. When social marketing is enabled by AI, it can assist brands in discovering critical audience information more quickly. AI algorithms are trained to span millions of data points in real time, helping brands to break through the noise and obtain a comprehensive insight into the consumer’s thinking. Those insights can inform how brands craft their communication. AI-powered systems can suggest keywords to help agencies develop interesting articles, respond more effectively to customer comments, and inspire more powerful communication. It could also enhance crisis management and help prevent possible brand dangers from becoming a major issue.

AI-powered systems hold immense potential for the PR industry, but as the technology evolves, it will take agencies time to understand its full impact.

Is India's comms talent market being held back by flat retainers

While there is potential for AI to revolutionise how the industry recruits and leverages talent in the future, a huge hurdle now is the widespread use of flat retainers in the PR industry. Maintaining a flat retainer for the duration of a brand’s relationship with their chosen agency restricts that agency’s potential to invest in talent that can significantly up the game and this is detrimental to the interests of the brand. And if the speed at which AI has developed over the last year has taught us anything, it’s that talent (and technology) can prove to be a game-changer.

This industry-wide problem (of stagnant fee structures) is especially true in India where clients often attach a perceived value to services rendered and insist upon low retainers. This perceived value is calculated on past experiences and may not necessarily reflect the talent or capability of the current agency. Compounding the problem is that there is no industry consensus amongst agencies on the minimum threshold for retainers. I always use the consulting model as an example of true value-based engagements where the big 5 firms can make huge investments in research and data and deploy a bench strength of top talent for any client assignment. This is why that industry has seen a successful growth trajectory and continues to be relevant for the future.

Your agency's innovation mantra. How will it spur growth

We believe in embracing change and adopting new technologies, ultimately clients will demand this from our teams. 

Just one example, AI now can turn text into videos (read: OpenAI’s Sora), there is a greater emphasis being placed on the quality of content and a huge focus on how that content generates talkability and shareability. Today, this is the currency of relevance. Agencies need to find engaging ways to use technology and innovation as this will be the new constant. Digital, for example, gives us the landscape understanding and data-driven insights that we could not get earlier. As we believe in being creative led in our PR approach, I believe you need a fearless approach to storytelling that goes beyond the traditional. This has led to many successful talk worthy campaigns we delivered for so many client partners like CRY, Porsche, Etihad and many others. We believe that great, impactful and talk worthy work will lead to growth for our business.

Finally, I have always believed that the lines between disciplines are blurring, a powerful creative idea today can come from anywhere, including emanating from PR agencies. It is my belief that when there is a confluence of creative thinking, PR, digital and influencer management, brands win. Recognising these changes early on during the lockdown, we reimagined our business model, strengthened our digital capabilities, and added significant creative talent who could deliver impactful campaigns. This has paid dividends and delivered recognition and growth for Lintas Live.

Your take on innovation:

If you don’t innovate, you won’t grow and if you don’t grow you will not survive.

Ameer Ismail, President, Lintas Live, MullenLowe Lintas Group

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